One of the key drivers to the success of any business is the strength of its IT team. A well-rounded, highly competent IT department is a significant asset to any business. Businesses that are aware of the relevance of an IT department often spend a significant amount of time as well as money hiring individuals with the technological skill sets necessary for their business. They also invest in the ongoing training of their IT staff to ensure that their skills remain up to date and relevant to their business needs.
Despite their best efforts, however, most businesses lose their skilled IT personnel within 2 - 5 years, thereby forcing them to repeat the process of hiring and training new employees over and over again; this employee turnover is highest in the technology sector, which had an employee turnover rate of 13.2% in 2017. In addition to the inconvenience and costs of hiring new employees, a major issue faced by businesses as a result of the rapid turnover of its IT personnel is knowledge loss. When employees leave a company, they usually take with them any knowledge or experience gained; without any remedial measures instituted, businesses may experience significant adverse consequences.
For businesses to negate the consequences of knowledge loss, especially in their IT team, it is essential they implement measures to ensure that their employees' knowledge is retained if they leave. Businesses also need to have a greater understanding of why their employees leave and devise measures to minimize their turnover.
WHY IT EMPLOYEES LEAVE
There are several reasons why IT employees choose to seek other places of employment after a few years. With the knowledge of these reasons, businesses can implement measures to minimize turnover of its IT employees and thereby negate the risk of knowledge loss.
- Poor/ineffective leadership: Some employees may not be satisfied with the leadership style or vision of their directors. As such, they may decide to leave to find other leaders better suited to their style and taste.
- Burnout: The demands placed on IT workers by fellow employees as well as customers can oftentimes be overwhelming. In a bid to meet up with the demands, these workers often push themselves very hard constantly. Over time, as a result, they experience burnout and are no longer to adequately perform their job; in addition, they also decide to seek employment elsewhere.
- Stalled career: Some IT workers lose interest in their current place of employment when they feel that they no longer have any room to grow by acquiring new skills and responsibilities. They then look for other jobs that offer them the opportunity to develop new skills or refine existing ones.
- Retirement: Some IT workers have no problems with their place of employment but have to leave when they reach retirement age. The retirement of long-term employees can create a void in businesses because of the loss of the experience and knowledge gained over their long duration of employment
CONSEQUENCES OF KNOWLEDGE LOSS
There are several consequences experienced by businesses and their employees as a result of the loss of knowledge. Some of these consequences include:
- Reduced employee and organizational efficiency: When people quit without transferring their knowledge, the remaining employees typically suffer for it because they now have to assume responsibilities that they have little to no awareness of. As a result of this lack of awareness, these tasks may take longer to complete and therefore, diminish the employees' efficiency as well as productivity. This ultimately diminishes the efficacy and productivity of the whole business.
- Reduced employee and customer satisfaction: With rapid employee turnover, the remaining employees have to pick up the slack to ensure that necessary tasks still get performed. Doing the extra tasks in addition to their own regular job duties can lead to an increase in their workload and, by extension, increase their levels of stress as well as frustration. This increased stress level and frustration can eventually result in a decreased satisfaction with their work and negatively impact their work performance. As a result of the reduced quality of their work, customers become affected as they may not be satisfied with the poor quality of work.
- Relationship loss: In addition to the practical skills and knowledge lost as a result of employee turnover, businesses also lose the knowledge of their informal network; this can be just as devastating, if not more, than the loss of the practical skills. Informal networks established by employees are one of the ways businesses are able to run efficiently. The loss of employees key to the development and maintenance of the network can leave a void which is not easily filled by hiring new employees. The practical skills can be taught to new employees, but the necessary network is something that is developed over time.
- Rework: There is usually a lot of rework when new hires are made to replace employees that quit. The new hires, being unfamiliar with the work responsibilities and workflows, may try to "re-invent the wheel" in performing routine tasks. In addition, being unfamiliar with the current state of tasks and projects, the new hire may end up going over and repeating already completed tasks.
PREVENTION OF KNOWLEDGE LOSS
Now that we have seen the negative consequences of knowledge loss a business incurs as a result of employee turnover, let us address some of the ways that we can minimize if not prevent knowledge loss if your star employee decides to leave.
- Risk assessment: A risk assessment should be performed on a regular basis to ascertain areas where the relevant knowledge and processes are consolidated in the hands of one or two people. With knowledge of these areas of knowledge consolidation, measures can thereby be instituted to ameliorate this.
- Documentation: All processes and workflows should be thoroughly documented and stored at a location accessible to any interested parties. Any new innovations or important deviations from standard business practices should be documented as well. With effective documentation, new hires or interested parties have a resource that can be used to look up any necessary information.
- Cross-training: As much as possible, more than one person should be familiar with all a business' processes and functions. Employees should be cross-trained about other duties or tasks that may not be part of their current job responsibilities. With no one person possessing all the knowledge about a business' functions, there is very minimal risk of knowledge loss.
With businesses losing an average of $4.5 million annually as a result of lost productivity due to employee turnover, this is not an issue that should be taken lightly. The information provided above gives some basic information about the dangers as well as the resolution of knowledge loss.
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